LAS VEGAS – In what has been a very quiet winter meetings for the Brewers, they did conduct a bit of business Wednesday by signing right-hander Jimmy Nelson to a contract for 2019 for $3.7 million.
Nelson, in his second year of arbitration eligibility, signed for the same salary he drew last season after missing all of 2018 while rehabbing from major shoulder surgery. The Brewers have six players remaining in arbitration – pitchers Zach Davies, Corey Knebel and Junior Guerra, third baseman Travis Shaw, outfielder Domingo Santana and catcher Manny Pina.
Though Nelson did not throw a pitch during the ’18 season after injuring his shoulder the previous September, he did make it through an extensive, grueling rehab program and will be ready to resume throwing prior to spring training. General manager David Stearns said when camp grows near, a plan will be put in place for Nelson to follow in Arizona.
“Step 1 is let’s see how Jimmy goes through his pre-spring training throwing program,” Stearns said. “He’ll begin to ramp that up as we get towards the New Year. Then, we’ll design a spring training program based in part on how he feels as he goes through his throwing in January.
“I believe he will start playing catch prior to the New Year but there won’t be much aggressive throwing until we get closer to spring training.”
As for expectations for Nelson entering spring training, Stearns said, “Certainly not right now, and even as we go into spring training, I’m not sure we’re going in with any pre-conceived ideas where Jimmy Nelson is going to begin the season, how he’s going to begin the season, in what role, whether it’s active or DL.
“We’re going to let Jimmy go through his process and see how he feels. We’re going to have more information on Jimmy Nelson on Feb. 14 than we do right now and we’re going to have more information on March 14 than Feb. 14. So, we’re going to be patient and learn as he goes through this process.”
The winter meetings wrap up Thursday morning with the annual Rule 5 draft of players not protected on 40-man rosters. The Brewers have four openings on their 40-man roster and Stearns said his staff would meet Wednesday night to discuss players of interest available to be drafted.
The Brewers are 26th among the 30 clubs in the draft order but if they see a player they like, they could make a deal with a team higher on the list to pick a player for them, then trade him to Milwaukee.
“If there’s a player who is of particular interest to us and we don’t believe that player is going to get down to where we are, that’s something we would consider.”
To make such an arrangement, the Brewers would offer a higher-drafting team a cash settlement beyond the $100,000 price for making Rule 5 selections. Those players must remain on the big-league roster for the entire next season, and Stearns made it clear he would not pick a player and try to “hide” him on the big-league roster.
“For us to take a Rule 5 player, it’s going to have to be a player we believe can really contribute on a team,” Stearns said. “We’re not going to devote a roster spot to a ‘frozen’ player we don’t think can contribute.”
As for where the Brewers stand in general in terms of possible trades or free-agent signings, Stearns said, “We’ve had steady conversations all three days. We’ve had periods where we thought we were inching toward a deal, then things slowed down a little bit.
“Something still could happen over the next 24 hours but I do think we’ve had productive discussions and productive conversations that will lay the groundwork for the rest of our off-season.”